About Us

Poverty and Literacy in Philadelphia

Almost 40 percent of those living in poverty in Philadelphia lack a high school credential. Without one, they are at a serious disadvantage when trying to find work or earn family-sustaining wages.  Out of reach for them are jobs in the fastest-growing sectors – education and the health services – which require higher education or post-secondary training.

While 217,000 adults in Philadelphia do not have a high school diploma, the number of adults whose lives are impacted by a lack of literacy skills is far larger:  an estimated 550,000 individuals are considered low literate. This means that almost 40 percent of the adult population in Philadelphia struggles to fill out a job application, struggles to read doctors’ instructions on their medicines and struggles to help with their children’s homework.

Center for Literacy

Center for Literacy (CFL) disrupts the cycle of poverty by providing the knowledge and skills for parents to succeed in postsecondary education, to compete in the 21st century economy, and to support the educational attainment of their children.

Founded as a West Philadelphia tutoring program in 1968, CFL quickly expanded to other areas of Philadelphia in need of adult tutoring. The demand for tutoring services soon exceeded the availability of volunteer tutors, and CFL began adding classroom instruction for adult education. Preparation classes for the GED® test soon followed, and in a few short years CFL was offering free neighborhood classes throughout Philadelphia. For over 25 years, CFL’s English as a second language (ESL) classes and tutoring program have helped thousands of immigrants gain the literacy and citizenship skills to navigate and flourish in their new homeland.

Currently, CFL provides a range of free community literacy programs to best serve our students: Adult Education classes to improve the literacy skills of our learners and to serve as a pipeline into our classes to prepare for the GED® or High School Equivalency; comprehensive family literacy programming; English as a Second Language (ESL)/English Language Acquisition – with beginning, intermediate, and advanced English classes; Opportunity Youth – programming is done in partnership with the Philadelphia Youth Network’s (PYN) E³ Power Centers, where CFL literacy specialists provide literacy services to out-of-school youth, ages 16-21; and small group or one-on-one tutoring.

Our Impact

Below are figures from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016:

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